LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Something Big Happened! Did You Feel it?

In the weeks leading up to heavy negotiations in Albany, HGAR personally educated more than two dozen elected officials on Good Cause Eviction and the most problematic aspects of valuing tenant protection over property rights.

LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Something Big Happened! Did You Feel it?
Alexander Roithmayr, Director of Government Affairs for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

New York State experienced two seismic shifts in the last few weeks! One was the earthquake on April 5th that got at least some New Yorkers talking, and the other was that Good Cause Eviction has passed in New York State.  Much like the April 5th earthquake, not everyone felt it or were even aware it happened, but unlike April 5th, time will tell how this version of Good Cause Eviction shakes out to affect the housing landscape.

Before we unpack what was passed, I wanted to acknowledge the advocacy efforts and hours of negotiations that HGAR, NYSAR and other like-minded organizations participated in these last few weeks. There were many instances where Calls to Action and hurried messages to legislators were called upon. To that point, HGAR was able to advocate extensively at the 2024 Lobby Day. In the weeks leading up to heavy negotiations in Albany, HGAR personally educated more than two dozen elected officials on Good Cause Eviction and the most problematic aspects of valuing tenant protection over property rights.

Alas, a version of Good Cause Eviction did pass so let’s look at what the law of the land currently states.

The recent legislative change mandates landlords to extend lease renewal offers to tenants who consistently fulfill their rental obligations and abide by the terms stipulated in their previous lease agreements. Additionally, it empowers renters to contest rent hikes exceeding 10%, or 5% plus the consumer price index, whichever is lower. This enactment comes into force immediately.

However, certain exemptions are included in the legislation, notably a provision allowing owners with 10 or fewer units spread across multiple properties to be exempted from the regulation, albeit with some ambiguity. Moreover, buildings constructed since the beginning of 2009 are granted a 30-year exemption.

Tenants residing in buildings comprising 10 units or fewer where the owner resides on-site will not meet the eligibility criteria.

According to the law, tenants are eligible for protection against unjustified eviction if the landlord's entire property portfolio comprises more than 10 apartments. For instance, if a landlord possesses two six-unit buildings, the good-cause protection applies due to the combined total of 12 units in their portfolio. However, many apartment buildings are owned by individual limited liability companies (LLCs), obscuring the identities of the actual owners. LLCs linked to the same individual or entity may list separate managing officers, complicating the verification of ownership further.

Certain types of properties such as co-ops, condos, mobile homes, dormitories, hotels, and apartments governed by other rent regulations are excluded from the scope of the new law, as are seasonal residences.

Landlords retain the right to decline lease renewals or initiate evictions for various reasons, even if the unit falls under the purview of the good-cause law. In cases where tenants cease rent payments, engage in unlawful activities, or breach substantial tenancy obligations without rectifying them within 10 days of receiving written notice, eviction remains a possibility. Additionally, landlords can evict tenants if they intend to transfer the unit to a family member or demolish the building.

These rules do not automatically apply outside New York City. Under the new law, other towns and municipalities will have to enact their own laws to opt in to good-cause rules.

There is some possibly good news coming out of this. The good news seems to be that neither “side” is happy with what has been passed. Meaning, the property rights advocates say that this has gone too far but the tenant advocates feel it did not go far enough.  This might not seem like much, but the art of the compromise in Albany might have saved property rights advocates a lot of pain. Not long ago the Housing Stability & Tenant Protection Act of 2019 passed where tenants’ rights advocates were touting much more of a victory, not so much with the passing of Good Cause Eviction. 

In conclusion, politically, Good Cause Eviction is done. The legislature gets to go into the reelection season telling their constituents that they passed historic tenant protections while telling other constituents that things could have been worse for property owners if they did not hold the line, depending on the crowd at any given time.

The NYS housing political landscape has changed both in theory and processes. Process, in the sense that Good Cause Eviction will be worked out in real-time as the law is put into practice. In theory in the sense that for the better part of the last five years, Good Cause Eviction has been THE housing conversation in New York State politics. For several reasons, no other housing topic could be addressed before the topic of tenant protection was addressed. Now that the Good Cause Eviction will not be the silver bullet that tackles the housing crisis, it is time to realize an opportunity that the housing conversation has been liberated from the elephant in the room. Now topics like zoning reform, co-op transparency, housing vouchers and more might get the political daylight they previously did not. Time will tell how this all breaks down in the days and weeks to come but for now, it’s a new day for New York.

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